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A New Service Opportunity with Pre & Post Natal Classes

by Jennifer Gianni

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Women who are pregnant or who have just given birth are in a stage of their lives when they are seeking guidance and advice, especially first time moms. Having a baby is an experience filled with uncertainty and anxiety. As mind/body professionals, we can be an important component in helping our clients during this amazing milestone. Pre and post natal women need classes tailored to the changes in their bodies, lifestyle and their schedules. They want to feel that their fitness regimen can continue during pregnancy or that it’s possible to start a fitness routine while pregnant or soon after birth. They’re looking for ways to ensure a problem free delivery and a quick bounce back after birth. These are all problems that your studio can address for this special population.

Plan Well

First, start small with one class that is open to pregnant women in any trimester, as well as post natal women. This will take some extra effort to make sure each student is performing the exercises with the correct modifications. Putting time and energy into planning your class will help create a safe and beneficial program for all participants. Instructors have to be nurturing and supportive, while also remaining quick on their feet to jump in and provide modifications when needed. No instructor should attempt to teach a class for this special population without specific training and experience; there is no room for unsafe practices here.

In a combined class setting it is best to teach to the most pregnant of the group and modify from there. For example, I might start everyone on the stability ball doing hip circles, which is appropriate for all stages. For the two post natal moms in class with their babies, they would hold their babies on their laps or arms as they circle the hips (babies LOVE the stability ball). For the second set of hip circles the post moms would lay the baby on the mat and drape the front of their body on the ball so they are looking at the baby. From there they can hang and stretch or do some upper back lifts. The point is that for new moms, unless they have had a C-section, it is important to spend time on the belly to massage the area and help the uterus return to its proper place and size.

Another example is having the class work the transverse abdominals in quadruped position, either on the hands or the forearms. This is the safest and most comfortable position for pregnant women. During the first set, the post natal moms place their babies on the mat underneath them. (It is also a great idea for the new moms with their babies to have two mats side by side for easy transitioning.) During the second set the post moms can lie beside their babies in a supine position working the same muscle with the same breath pattern. On the next set you can give options for those who need it. This makes everyone feel included in the workout. It also allows those early in their pregnancy to see where they will progress, and they’ll already know how to modify as they move later into their pregnancy, because of their experience in the combined class.

Post natal precautions

Most of your post pregnant clients will not receive a release to exercise until six or more weeks after delivery. Women starting back sooner than four weeks after delivering vaginally should not be doing quadruped deep abdominal raises. It is very rare, but doing this exercise could force air into the blood stream and cause an air embolism (obstructing a blood vessel), which has the potential of being fatal. Here are two general rules.

  • No post clients in class until 5 to 6 weeks after delivery (exceptions for C-section deliveries).

  • Start the early post moms (1-4 weeks) on their backs while the rest of the class starts all fours deep ab work.

Pick a good class time

As we all know, figuring out the best time for a class is one of the most difficult things about running a studio. I’ve found that pre and post natal classes work best in the mid-morning. This gives new moms and moms to be time to get other children off to school or day care – and take a little time for themselves before the day gets away from them.

Pre and post natal class example

A welcoming environment and the correct props are also essential. You don’t have to spend a bunch of money on new equipment, but you should have things like blankets, pillows and/or towels for support. Some other great props to use are stability balls, small free weights, resistance bands and stools or folding chairs. It is important that any instructor attempting a pre and post natal class have the proper training on modifications.

Warm up

Use the wall for balance, feedback and traction. 1) Foot rolling with soft to medium tension ball (no Hard tennis balls, golf balls, etc. 2) Releve balance, cue eccentric contraction coming down. 3) Lunge/ Calf Stretch. Use opposition of hand in the wall and heel to the floor. 4) Supported crescent. 5) Supported Side bends.

Middle

Stability ball. For all the seated ball work, the post moms can hold baby in their arms or on their lap. The ball is a sure fire way to soothe a fussy baby.

  • Seated on the ball pelvic floor work with breath.

Modification. For your participants in the third trimester or weeks away from birth, they should not do concentric contractions of the pelvic floor. Only eccentric, lengthening and opening work are appropriate.